By the time my eighth pick (#110 overall) came, I was still without a first baseman, and my options were dwindling. Billy Butler went to Nash with the 109th pick, which meant that I needed to snag Freddie Freeman now or wait and settle for Carlos Pena or Paul Goldschmidt in a later round. Pena’s power and patience are the first two things I look for in a first baseman, but he strikes out in over a quarter of his plate appearances every year, so if he doesn’t hit thirty homers, he’ll continue to bat around .200. Goldschmidt showed power potential in his 2011 call-up, but in a short sample, he struck out even more than Pena, and he doesn’t walk nearly as much. Freeman, on the other hand, showed promise in 2011, hitting .282/.346/.448 in his first full season. I don’t love this pick, but if Freeman can build on that start, he won’t bring my team down too much.
I was up again at #115, and still had just one outfielder on my roster. I considered Nick Markakis, whose career seems to be in a bit of a tailspin as the Orioles fail to build anything around him. I looked at Drew Stubbs, who steals a lot of bases, but can’t steal first, which is a shame considering his 30% strikeout rate. I also thought about Cameron Maybin, who broke out to some extent last year and seems poised for a huge 2012. In the real world, Maybin would have been my pick, but couchmanagers had him ranked outside the top 250, primarily because it’s hard to accumulate runs and RBI playing in spacious Petco Park, so I thought I’d put him on the shelf and take him in a later round. Instead, I took Carlos Beltran, who remains a free agent. If Beltran resigns with the Giants, he may not put up huge numbers in 2012, but he was a 5-win player last year, and it’s hard to turn down a 35-year-old future Hall of Famer this late in a draft. Let’s hope he finds a hitter’s park to work in next year.
My next pick was #138. By now, most teams had taken at least one of the relief pitchers we’re required to have two of. In the real world, this would be among my last priorities, as 65 innings of relief work are rarely as valuable as a starting pitcher or position player’s role. However, my team does have three aces and a pretty solid offensive core, so I decided to snatch up Joel Hanrahan while I still could. As a pure saves guy, Hanrahan may have been a weak choice, since the Pirates probably won’t win more than 70 games in 2011, even another year into their rebuilding project. From a stuff perspective, I like what Hanrahan has to offer. He was a big strikeout guy earlier in his career (he still has a cumulative average of 9.84 per 9 innings), but he walked too many batters. In 2012, when he assumed the closer role in Pittsburgh, he traded some of those Ks for control, still striking out eight men per nine, but walking just 2.1 per nine, backing up his 1.83 ERA with a 2.18 FIP. Closer or otherwise, he’s the kind of hard thrower I would want in any real bullpen.
With the 143rd pick, I thought about Maybin, as well as another sleeper I’d rather not divulge in this space until he’s actually on my team, but again I decided Maybin would be available later on, and that I should pick up one more starting pitcher if a good one was available. Jordan Zimmermann was still there, as were Derek Holland, Doug Fister, Clay Buchholz, and the two Santanas- Johan and Ervin. So was Matt Garza, whom I’m thrilled to have picked in the 11th round. Garza quietly dominated in his first year in the NL, striking out a batter an inning over almost 200 innings to earn an even 5.0 fWAR. It was the best season of his career by far, but at 28, pitching in baseball’s weakest division, I think he can repeat it, and with better luck, fielding, and run support, maybe win a few more games in 2012.
Nine picks later, Cameron Maybin was off the board, snatched up by Jeff Furtah in what I think is the pick of the draft so far. I’m sure several of us were in on Maybin, who was worth 4.7 fWAR in 2011 and may jump to 6 in his age-25 season, but for Jeff to wait as long as he did and that grab him out from under so many of us was a cunning move.
My five favorite picks over the weekend (including Monday):
1. Maybin. Balls.
2. Jordan Zimmermann, who went 154th overall to Michael Pichan, who has the 14th pick in the draft and grabbed Doug Fister in the same turn.
3. Brandon Beachy going 125th overall to Clave. Beachy hasn’t proven much in the big leagues, but he’s struck out more than a batter per inning at every stop on his way to the Braves’ rotation, and should be free to pitch 180 innings in 2012 at age 25.
4. Josh Beckett, 135th overall to Nash. I didn’t want Beckett, as his dominance in 2011 was largely related to a lower-than usual FIP, and he faded some toward the end of the year. He’s also had an odd good year/bad year dynamic to his career, and if that means anything, he’s in line for a bad one. Still, a guy who had a 2.89 ERA in the AL East in 2011 just went 135th in a fantasy draft. That’s got to be a steal.
5. Michael Pineda, the 121st overall pick, by Jerry Smalls. Like Beachy, Pineda is a strikeout machine, and will be dangerous if he builds on his excellent rookie season in 2011.
Jeff Furtah’s writeup of the first round shines some light on the participants’ thoughts behind our early picks, and a few rebuttals. I’m glad Jeff posted my criticism of the Bautista pick, but it does expose the difference in my real-world approach and the fantasy approach these other bloggers rightly take.
I still need a second baseman (whom I hope to grab tonight/tomorrow morning), another outfielder (I’d prefer a center fielder), a utility guy, and two more pitchers- one starter and one reliever. Of course I’ve got my eyes on a few guys for each of those roles, but I’m sure someone will swoop most of them up before I get to them. Stay tuned.